Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Dorm rooms and Broomsticks?

Ken Thomas brought my attention to this article (nicely written for one so young, I'd add) about a strange phenomenon now consuming the college-searching set.  It seems that top colleges are marketing themselves in ways that will appeal to students looking for the "Hogwarts Experience" and seeking to compare colleges based on how close they come to the ambiance presented in the Harry Potter series.  Of course, students are more apt to be looking for a place to study chemistry than potions . . . but some do also seek to play a non-flying version of Quidditch and to divide themselves into "houses" based on the fictional divisions at Hogwarts.  The young author of this article will have none of it and very sensibly argues that this is an all-too-transparent marketing effort to manipulate nervous applicants with reassuring and favorable comparisons to the literature and images of their youth.  This particular young woman wants to put aside childish things and study the real world rather than pretend to inhabit a magical one--which is, as I say, sensible.  But marketers these days--cynical though they are--don't come upon ideas this ubiquitous and, apparently, effective by cynicism alone.  They must be tapping into something deeper.

What might that be?  I'm listening just now to the old P.G. Wodehouse classic, Mike:  A Public School Story which, to untutored American ears, sounds remarkably more like Mike:  A Fancy Boarding School Story.  It sounds like a jolly good place . . . a serious place but also a place full of proper levity.  Mike is a boy who excels in cricket, so this necessarily consumes a good bit of his attention and efforts, but as with his "house," his team is a kind of  vehicle for pride and excellence.  Much like Harry Potter, Mike is a part of things larger than himself and is engaged in activities that give him ample opportunity to shine--in large measure because of the honor he can bring to his house, his team and his school . . . and, many speculate, someday to his country. 

I think young people long for the kind of transformative meaningfulness they imagine a Hogwarts education--or an English style boarding experience--might give them.  I think they also long for the kind of order and routine that seems to predominate in such a world . . . that being a part of something larger than oneself and a kind of school spirit that popular culture once thought to be corny--in the 70s and 80s for instance.  Maybe this is a kind of over-reaction to the massive lack of guidance and order that tends now to predominate in many schools.  The lack of core curriculum?  The tearing down of Greek fraternities and sororities?  The lack of rules and order?  Perhaps there's more to this marketing ploy than a simple lifting of a popular meme . . . 

Categories > Education

Discussions - 5 Comments

I happened on your blog today via a link and I was impressed with the content.

It made me wonder if your mission was similar to Hillsdale College in the specific sense of eschewing all Federal money. You do not claim this, and you do talk about federal aid administered by your institution.

Am I right to assume that your mission differs from Hillsdale in this regard?

Carlin on why it is the way it is.

Brutus, I grant that Carlin might argue that backward from the results. However, does he know who those puppet-masters are? Who are the masters of my universe?

I am just wrapping up with my latest batch of 50 students. They are no what they are because of someone distant. I agree that most of them lack critical thinking skills, but those who have them do so mostly because of conversations with their parents. Some few of them have had teachers who helped, but they don't even know how to listen to a teacher if they have not been taught to listen and discern and discriminate by their parents.

I get them as adults or near adults and they are old enough to decide to think for themselves if they wish to. Careful reading and listening is a theme of my course. Guess what? Some of them are receptive and some of them are not. Those who are will go and do something. Those who aren't may still be useful to society somewhere and somehow.

I like the idea that honor may be making a comeback as a virtue, even in the common culture of education. I hope you are right, Julie, that the yearning for a "Hogwarts experience" includes more than a delight in neo-Gothic architecture.

Kate, I think I understand the point you are making. I agree, that all things in this society start with the relationship between parent and child. Carlin or anyone else (you or I) can identify these people(masters of the universe) rather easily. Just look at who owns the media and who benifits, ect. Even in the worst society, the good will be good. The best of us overcome, but the rest will sort of fall in line. So the culture is being directed via education, media, ect. It is bad parents, but; there always were bad parents and their always will be. On a philosophic level we can overthrow the tyranny in an instant and its so weak it could never hold, however people don't want to look at things beyond the reality that we except. Over the course of time people have always believed in ideas that they did not come up with on their own. Whoever controls these beliefs is your master of the Universe. In the past, I will submit it was the church or the monarch/despot. Today its the leaders of the corporatist/fascist society. More on topic, I like the Hogwarts in the architecture but I don't know that I would want to go to school there. Honor making a comeback I think is a mixed bag as it is too often represented by pride and vanity.

Looking at my comment I realize how much I miss the edit feature.

Who are they, the master's of my universe? What are their names? Usually corporations own the media, not individuals. Who benefits? Who benefits from what, exactly? Are you asking who is rich? That changes if you watch the Forbes or Fortune lists of the wealthiest people in America or the world. Wealth is more fleeting than political power or even fame. People make bad decisions and lose wealth.

Leaders of corporatist/ fascist society are -- who? I just do not know.

Honor doesn't like pride and vanity. Pride and vanity are honor perverted.

The university I went to had architecture like Hogwarts. That was a cause for affection, even when it was an affectation.

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